Multi-vehicle crash on I-69 near Auburn claims three lives

DEKALB CO., Ind. (ADAMS) – Indiana State Police say three people were killed in a crash on Wednesday afternoon in DeKalb County.

ISP officials say that at approximately 3:15 p.m., the Indiana State Police responded to a multi-vehicle crash on I-69 near mile marker 332, which is approximately 3 miles north of Auburn. A plainclothes ISP detective came upon the crash as it happened, and was able to immediately summons emergency medical personal, fire-rescue personnel, and a Parkview Samaritan helicopter to the scene.

The crash, involving two semi-tractor/trailers and five-passenger vehicles, required rescue crews from Auburn & Waterloo Fire Departments to extricate two critically injured passengers from a GMC Acadia SUV, with all five occupants of that vehicle being either flown or transported by ambulance to Parkview Regional Medical Center in Fort Wayne. Unfortunately, the two adult passengers that were extricated later succumbed to their injuries and died at the hospital. The other three occupants of the GMC Acadia suffered what were reported as minor injuries. Also as a result of the crash, an adult male driver of a Mazda passenger car sustained fatal injuries and was pronounced dead at the scene by the DeKalb County Coroner.

Trooper Adam Kitson’s preliminary crash investigation revealed that at the time of the crash, the northbound I-69 traffic had slowed or stopped due to roadway construction delays up ahead near the 334mm Waterloo exit. A red 2007 Kenworth semi-tractor/trailer driven by James Crager, 70, of Angola, Indiana was approaching the slowed traffic at a high rate of speed. Crager failed to slow or take evasive action to avoid the congested traffic, which led to a catastrophic chain of events.

Crager’s semi-tractor first crashed into the rear of the red GMC Acadia SUV in the right lane (forcing that vehicle off-road down into the right side ditch), continued northbound crashing into the rear of a silver Ford Escape (also forcing it off onto the right shoulder), and then crashed into the rear of a black Mazda passenger car, an impact which then caused the Mazda to crash into the rear of a 2016 Freightliner semi-tractor/trailer. The Mazda passenger car sustained catastrophic damage from the impact. Fortunately, the drivers two other vehicles, a silver Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck and a blue Chevrolet Trailblazer, were able to take evasive action by swerving off-road to the right and avoiding direct impact, both sustaining only minor damage and no injuries.

The crash required the northbound lanes of I-69 at the 332mm to be shut down for over five hours. This created a lengthy traffic back up for several miles and required the detouring of northbound traffic at the Auburn exits. Southbound lanes of travel were also shut down or slowed for several hours as officers had to redirect and alleviate northbound traffic stuck on the interstate.

Crash reconstruction investigators from the Indiana State Police were summoned to the scene, and the crash remains under investigation at this time. Crash investigations of this nature involve extensive investigation and often take a great deal of time to secure all the evidence and facts surrounding the causal factors and circumstances. Once the crash reconstruction investigators have concluded their work, a full report will be turned over to the DeKalb County Prosecutors Office for review and determination of any criminal charges that may result.

Trooper Kitson was assisted in this crash investigation by numerous troopers from the Fort Wayne Post, troopers from the Commercial Motor Vehicle Division, the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Department, Auburn Fire Department, Waterloo Fire Department, EMS personnel from Parkview DeKalb and Steuben County, the DeKalb County Coroner’s Officer, and Bill’s Towing Service.


UPDATE: The following information is being provided as an update to the previously released information from yesterday’s multi-vehicle fatal crash in DeKalb County.

In cooperation with the DeKalb County Coroner’s office, all notifications have been made to the respective families of the three persons killed in yesterday’s crash. The deceased are identified as:

William Charles Heil, 65, Angola, IN. Mr. Heil was the driver of the 2020 Mazda passenger car. He succumbed to his injuries and was pronounced deceased at the scene.

Dale Eugene Lowe, 81, and his wife, Jean Elsie Lowe, 72, Charlotte, MI, both were passengers in the GMC Acadia, and both succumbed to their injuries after being transported to the hospital in Fort Wayne.

Also, to identify the other drivers and passengers involved during the incident, the following information is being arranged in the order in which vehicles were involved.

James Crager, 70, Angola, IN driving a 2007 Kenworth semi-tractor, registered to Keep On Trucking, LLC, Angola, IN
James Coppernoll, 34, Lansing, MI, driving a 2008 GMC Acadia, suffered minor injuries.
(Passengers) Sara Elizabeth Coppernoll, 30, Lansing, MI, minor injuries.
Layla Coppernoll, 4yrs old, Lansing, MI, minor injuries.

Dale Eugene Lowe, 81, Charlotte, MI, deceased.

Jean Elsie Lowe, 72, Charlotte, MI, deceased.

George Elmer Sprow, 83, Angola, IN, driving a silver Ford Escape, was uninjured.
William Charles Heil, 65, Angola, IN, driving a 2020 Mazda CX9, deceased.
Cassten N. G. Everidge, 24, Hudson, IN, driving a 2017 silver Chevrolet, uninjured.
Shane E. Reed, 44, Corunna, IN, driving a blue 2005 Chevrolet Trailblazer, uninjured.
Nasib Ahmed Noor, 28, Saint Cloud, MN, operating a 2016 White Freightliner semi-tractor/trailer, registered to Excel Trucking LLC, Columbus, OH.
This crash investigation is ongoing. There is no further information to release at this time.